Citizen Communication

Citizen Communication
Posted on 08/04/2015

By Council Member Scott Bracken 

One of the most important duties we perform as elected officials is to communicate with our constituency. We seek out the practical information as we perform research required to make informed decisions. Distilling and sharing all pertinent information is a significant task.

As I hope many of you know, the city has a newly-designed website www.ch.utah.gov, a Facebook page and a Twitter account (@ CHCity). The police department also runs a Twitter account (@CHPolice). We also mail out this monthly newsletter and have an e-mail subscription list that allows you to receive meeting agendas and other communications as soon as they’re published. Depending on who you are, some ways of getting information are better than others, and you can choose which methods work best for you.

That said, we often hear from residents that didn’t know something was happening in their neighborhood, or that a particular public works project would be impacting them. While we send out notices for each of these types of land use or public works projects, we still hear from some that they didn’t know about it ‘until it was too late’ or until an informed neighbor told them about it.

This can be challenging for both elected and appointed officials who have often spent a lot of time discussing many relevant issues for weeks, or months beforehand.

Much of this discussion takes place in our work sessions – all of which are open to the public, and as of this year, are available for live streaming on our website, where you can also download archived sessions.

In early July, I had a meeting with some of my constituents, a couple which expressed concerns about how and when the city communicates with them. The sewer project along Bengal Boulevard and 2300 East has had quite significant impact to the entire area. Couple that with the fact that as soon as the sewer district completes their work, the city will be reconstructing and/or resurfacing Bengal Boulevard from Highland Drive to Wasatch Boulevard with the goal to be finished before school starts in a couple of weeks – and it’s not hard to understand why they wanted to know what was going on.

During the meeting, a common concern was expressed, namely “why didn’t you come out and tell me that this was happening?” Honestly, we do our best to do just that, but short of knocking on every door, it becomes challenging to reach all affected parties. It is equally challenging to know which projects, issues, or items concern each and every one of the 9,000+ constituents in my district, not to mention when, how, what manner they want to know about them is a herculean task, to say the least. Often, without some prior conversation or communication, the task might seem impossible. Nevertheless, we are devoted to staying informed and keeping all of you informed by whatever means we can.

With rapidly advancing methods of communication, the city should stay abreast of any and all means to improve our engagement with residents. Since incorporation, Cottonwood Heights has always been open to new and better ways of doing things.

This has served us well.

We’ve made some mistakes, of course, but the gains have been tremendous. To that end, I am actively seeking input or ideas on improving the methods of communication we currently use, or adding additional ones.

Ever since we became a city, the use of push technology on mobile devices has become almost ubiquitous, and while the old style approaches still work – like sending out letters to addresses near a project – I feel there is more we can and should do (without breaking the bank).

One example of this is the 1-800 number that was published for the Bengal Boulevard sewer district project. Anyone that wanted or needed information could call and find what they needed to know. We haven’t utilized that method for a public works project very often before this, and we will evaluate how effective it is/was.

We will be discussing other ideas over the next few weeks in our work sessions. I certainly welcome additional input from anyone.

I can be reached at sbracken@ch.utah.gov, or if you prefer, you can listen in to the live stream or come to city hall and listen to the discussion first hand.

I truly believe that doing my civic duty as a councilman requires civic dialogue. It is my hope that we can achieve great things in our city through constant improvement in the way we communicate.